Dink And Dunk? Not So Fast

By Matthew Marczi

When the Steelers first brought in Todd Haley as the new offensive coordinator, some criticized the decision to install what they pejoratively refer to as a ‘dink and dunk’ offense. As the season progressed and the team started losing games, many more joined in to the chorus.

This season has been no different, with the bubble screen—and other assorted screens—apparently being the bane of existence for some of the team’s fans.

Of course, the screen game is just one facet of the offense that serves multiple purposes. It serves as a surrogate running game when the offensive line struggles to get push, and it helps to set up for deep ball opportunities.

Nobody with any sense of how the game is played would deny that screens have their place in an offense. Sometimes it seems to define the way Pittsburgh plays on offense, but that perception is not the case, and is perhaps a result of the fact that the team often opens up the game with short passing to set up the rest of their offense.

Even as much of an apologist I am of the screen game though, even I was surprised when looking up some numbers yesterday. Consider this one:

Ben Roethlisberger leads all quarterbacks in the league with 23 completions on passes aimed 20 yards or more down the field.

Dink and dunk? I don’t think so.

In fact, Roethlisberger is tied with Joe Flacco for the third-most attempts of 20 yards or more league-wide with 57, an average of 5.2 attempts per game. Leading the way is Matthew Stafford with 59 and Andy Dalton with 58, but of course that’s what happens when your primary targets are physical specimens like Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green.

Roethlisberger’s deep ball accuracy of 43.9 percent places him seventh in the league among quarterback with at least 30 such attempts. Among that group, only Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers are above 50 percent.

In total yardage, his 694 ranks sixth, just eight yards behind both Wilson and Geno Smith, while Drew Brees has a stranglehold at the top with 847 yards. Peyton Manning and Andy Dalton tie for second with 730.

In addition, his seven touchdowns ranks tied for fifth, with Brees and, surprisingly, Nick Foles at the top with 11. It should be noted that his five interceptions is the second-most behind only Smith, though some of those came under pressing circumstances—and a wrong route by Antonio Brown.

Overall, 13.7 percent of Roethlisberger’s passes travel at least 20 yards down the field, which is ninth in the league among qualified quarterbacks. That’s more than Stafford, Brees, and Eli Manning. It’s more than Cam Newton and Carson Palmer, all quarterbacks with reputations for winging it down the field. Surprised?

Honestly, a little.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • treeher

    Considering the multitude of 3rd and extremely longs that the team endured during its run to 6 losses, downfield passing was a necessity. Then, Haley finally allowed for more no huddle and Ben has opened it up a bit. I don’t think it’s indicative of “normal” play calling.

  • 2443scott

    i wouldnt mind the bubble/dink and dunk passes so much if the play calling for the run game was better ….i am at home watching game on tv not at the game where the coaches can see the play on field or up in booth ….but if i can see how def is lined up to stop the run with 8 in box and you run right up gut i know your going to get a yard or 2 …and thats what happens alot 1 or 2 or 3 yards….what happened to the toss to running back and the guards pulling to get the runner up field …the zone blocking isnt there either what about tossing to running back on screens …..i my self dont like the toss it to wr for a yard or two sure some times they break it for more but teams have started to jump these types of plays for intercepts and tds….as the way of the nfl changes ..so it seems is the runing back roll they are being forgotten ….way nfl is moving to pass its prob better to get a good strong TE and use him in running back spot he can block the rush or run or roll out or slip though the line as a extra reciever…..i dont see the point of haveing a running back if you dont let them do what they are any one can run into the line for 2 yards …

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Throw out the numbers. I don’t care. Break it down this way and you will find the evidence might be different.

    The first 4 games, Ben is scrambling and trying to make things happen and desperately heaving the ball downfield. The result, interceptions, sacks, less of these long completions, unless it was garbage time in a bad loss.

    As they have gone 5-2 more recently, Ben is getting rid of the ball quickly most of the time. Now you have less sacks, less interceptions and the defense getting frustrated. The D starts to take chances and jump routes, so Ben throws over the top. Sometimes the deep passes are early to keep the D honest, then back to the short passes. Of course you end up with more successful long plays in winning performances.

  • Virdin Barzey

    I’m all in for Ben getting rid of the ball quicker. If that’s dink and dunk, we need to keep doing it. We have receivers that make plays in the open field. Give them the ball.

    If anybody thinks that o-line has been fixed because of this winning we’ve had this past few weeks, you are delusional. Its long overdue for Benji to start helping the line out by getting rid of the ball and not holding on to it to make something happen. Once in a while, okay, but not every series. Those days are over.

    There are some simple truths to football no matter the decade or the team. You run effectively or pass short effectively and the the defense will come up. That always open the deep ball, the one thing that most don’t want to give up but have to if you are killing them underneath.

    I like our chance with Ben getting rid of the ball quicker.

  • SumnerYoung

    When the offense is effective, it’s Big Ben in command of a quick-strike offense. When it’s ineffective, it’s dink ‘n dunk. There aren’t many fans saying “dink ‘n dunk” when this offense is putting long drives together and putting points on the scoreboard. The commanding quick-strike version has been the norm lately, and I like it. And by the way, the 16 play 97 yard drive against Detroit after the fake field goal was about as good as football gets.

  • charles

    Exactly. What can be added is no Wallace and a recieving corps making their impact across the middle or at high bodily disadvantage. Wallace did not like getting hit, this corp is led by AB and Cotch making very tough catches.